On Tuesday 26th September Labour Party members, along with those from the Green Party, Liberal Democrats and fellow concerned constituents, went to track down their MP Damian Collins. Frustrated with the lack of involvement and communication from their MP, they visited him at his annual Folkestone Job Fair at the Leas Cliff Hall to ask questions and represent their fellow constituents.
Some members of the group stood outside talking with local people about the issues, and sharing information while others went inside to speak to Damian Collins. Outside, local people were very keen to share their dissatisfaction and experiences with the service as it currently stands, and are concerned about the immediate impact of this situation over this coming winter.
People said how difficult it is to get an appointment at their surgery already, having to queue outside the surgery first thing in the morning, not necessarily being given an appointment and having to return again at lunchtime. They know this will only get worse once 4700 patients are forcibly allocated to surgeries that are already struggling to care for their patients, and are concerned for their families. People were very appreciative that we were raising these concerns and attempting to make our MP act on our behalf.
By speaking to stallholders at the Jobs Fair we found out that the local 111 service (GP out of hours) is currently served by a company called Primecare. It has recently been judged as failing, with concern for patient safety. This failing service would take the brunt of this GP crisis, particularly over the winter.
Damian Collins knew nothing about this situation and was dismissive of our concerns. A quick internet search brought up this article from 20 September 2017 which shows this information is in the public domain. We would have been happy to share what we knew about this with our MP, if he had been interested to listen.
We recorded part of the conversation for you all to watch here but here are the key points:
• Damian told us that one constituent had contacted him about the GP crisis, whereas there were more then 100 people present at the Public Meeting held by Laura Davison, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Folkestone and Hythe in the General Election, at the Canterbury Road Railway Club on Thursday 21 September, sharing their fears, concerns and frustrations.
• Fellow constituents who have looked on Damian’s website for his surgery times will know that they have not been on the website for some time. We raised this with Damian and by the next day this had been amended. You can find Damian at his surgeries on the first and third Fridays of the month between 4pm and 7pm.
• We pressed Damian on the numbers he had given on his website stating that 1500 patients had been successfully moved to new surgeries, and the subsequent FOI request that showed that the figure was in fact 0.
• We alerted Damian to the information being displayed at FEFP which was causing fear and concern.
• Attend Damian’s surgeries if you have concerns about the #FolkestoneGPCrisis — Damian assured us he would be happy to speak to constituents about this issue.
• Email Damian at firstname.lastname@example.org and remind him and Jeremy Hunt of the promises they made to the people of Folkestone. Even more effective action would be to write to his constituency office: 4 West Cliff Gardens, Folkestone CT20 1SP
• For updates visit Facebook page Laura4Labour and on Twitter @shepwaylabour and @laurafd Use the hashtag #FolkestoneGPCrisis
• We would like to encourage Damian Collins to raise this GP crisis in the House of Commons, not only in writing to Jeremy Hunt. This is a nationwide issue, but is being felt acutely in Folkestone.
• Visit Laura4Labour Facebook Page for details of the Clinical Commissioning Group meetings (CCG) which the public can attend and hold them accountable for the situation. The next meeting is Wednesday 11th October, 2-5pm, Hythe Imperial Hotel (Ballroom), Prince’s Road, Hythe, CT21 6AE